Mike Hosking. Not what you would call a well-ropunded person. (Click to enlarge.)

Mike Hosking. Sadly, not what you would call a well-rounded person. (Click to enlarge.)

Some of us have always seen radio announcer Mike Hosking as a puffed-up little prat.

I was there at Broadcasting House when this shortish young guy with a big voice and a very strange manner arrived in the Network Newsroom. He’d come across from Radio NZ’s commercial network. We were one big happy family then – this was before the commercial network was spun off as The Radio Network. I still have the launch shirt with the TRN lollipop logo on the front somewhere. Mike was “23 going on 60,” as one newsroom wag described him.

Mike looked like a school leaver wearing his uncle’s suit. And shoes. He was prematurely conservative, a yokel with a clichéd radio jock’s voice, in the big smoke and in a big hurry. I worked with a reporter who would become Mike’s first wife. They seemed pretty suited. Marie was a bit of an oddball too (maybe we all were?) She was a little harsh with people around her at times, but then radio news can be a pressure job. Radio’s rolling news deadlines can be wearying. But she seemed a competent reporter, probably better than me. More steel-edged.

People at Radio NZ were generally happy for them and the couple seemed to keep to themselves. Mike dressed more and more like a bank manager with flash, old men’s suits and silk ties. Years later the couple would become ‘famous’ for trying to keep paparazzi from photographing their twins in public. Mike, it seemed, was a protective father and I admired at least that about him. Which makes his acid victim-bashing this week all the more galling for me.

Anyway, Mike moved into a co-host chair at Morning Report. He was mentored in that role by one of the most gracious news broadcasters it was ever my privilege to work with, Geoff Robinson, and a crash-hot team of radio producers, journalists and correspondents. It was a really good team and the show pumped.  I moved to Parliament’s Press Gallery about then, back when it was the aristocracy of NZ journalism.

During his stint at Morning Report, people (including me) appreciated Mike’s somewhat bulldog approach to interviews, particularly political interviews. He wasn’t likeable, and he was a long way short of Kim Hill (in my view hands-down the best broadcaster in NZ, and I’ve observed a few) but the magazine format of Morning Report, and the excellent production team covered his weaknesses.

I lost track of him. I’d moved to Auckland and was producing The Paul Holmes Breakfast at NewstalkZB with Phil Yule and John Pagani and then Phil Armstrong. There, with a fraction of the resources of Morning Report, Paul’s small production team, with the ZB newsroom and correspondents (and the effervescent Bill Francis) banged out a radio news show of which I was, for the most part, pretty damn proud. With my friends, I drew a distinction between Paul’s radio show and his TV One ‘Holmes’ Show which seemed so lightweight at the time but some of which would now stand as quality journalism compared to the pap of Seven Sharp. The ads on the radio show drove me crazy, and there were moments where for one reason or another (‘Cheeky darky’) meh, not so proud. But Paul was a clown and a frustrated am-dram thespian. You needed to know that about him.

Sometimes the ‘role’ would inhabit Paul, like a budget version of Peter Sellers, and he would run away at the mouth. (I’d seen Paul in a play at Wellington Repertory Theatre or Bats or somewhere and remember laughing like a drain at his earnestness.) And Paul was a brilliant interviewer. My job as producer was to line up the interview subjects, write a background brief for Paul, an intro, and a question line. It is a measure of how good he was as an interviewer that he would listen to the answers and engage in the interview – not, like some of his fill-ins, just move to the next question on my list. There were times when Paul would excoriate someone he was interviewing. He could be merciless. But his life experience, his character, his family and friends in Hawkes Bay, these somehow grounded him. He was accountable to us. He was a good man.

As a broadcaster, as a human being, it seems to me that Paul Holmes had qualities that Mike Hosking seems to lack: notably self-awareness, empathy and compassion for people less fortunate than himself. These are damning shortcomings on Hosking’s part, in my opinion.

Eventually Paul retired and Mike Hosking was anointed breakfast show crown prince at NewstalkZB. Superficially, it was a job he’d prepared for, been grooming himself for. Congratulations. By coincidence, I was about 10 metres behind Hosking as we walked from our cars to Paul Holmes’ funeral at the cathedral in Parnell. Good to see him there.

Now it’s obvious, or should be, that people’s on-air ‘persona’ (just like their online persona) does not give an accurate account of the whole person. We are complex creatures, each of us, with internal drives and conflicting goals, passions and desires. But surely by now Mike Hosking is a professional broadcaster.

Hosking should be, by now, if not a master, at least in control of a ‘palate’ of radio announcer/public commentary tools and know the effect of each of them. Even an idiot with that much experience must have, by now, worked out how to use these oratorical tools – and worked out that his words and how he delivers them are weapons that can have an impact.

So Hosking’s awful, deeply nasty, socially-disconnected rant on TVOne’s Seven Sharp on Thursday night, where he attacked the victim of John Key’s serial harassment at her workplace as ‘selfish’ is intolerable. If it’s not apologised for, by Hosking or someone in authority over him, it is unforgivable. I support any moves to make Hosking accountable for his actions.*

For a man in such a position of privilege as Mike Hosking to perpetuate even more bullying on a young woman who was repeatedly harassed, over months, by a public figure – her personal space invaded by a man who ignored her requests and then demands that he STOP TOUCHING HER – is obscene.

It horrifies me to think that Mike Hosking now appears to have become a danger to women. How else are we to read his hateful message?

– P

* see ‘Hey RaboDirect, if Mike Hosking’s selling you, I’m not buying.